Sunday, May 31

Key Appointments: Buhari's Silence Unsettles APC Leaders

With security at the top of his agenda, President Muhammadu Buhari may have decided to make the announcement of his security team the first in the series of appointments he is expected to make at the start of his administration, THISDAY has learnt. The team is likely to be headed by former Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-general Abdulrahman Dambazau, who looks set to become the new National Security Adviser.
It is also gathered from a reliable source that the next on the list of appointments would be those of Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chief of Staff to the President.

This is as Buhari's silence on executive appointments seen as key to the full take-off of his administration has upset many chieftains of his party, All Progressives Congress. It has also provoked considerable anxiety about the roadmap he is reading after his swearing in as president on May 29.

Many Nigerians had thought from past experience that Buhari would announce major appointments,
such as Chief of Staff, media spokesperson NSA, and SGF, at least within 48 hours of his inauguration. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had sacked all the service chiefs, the director-general of State Security Services, and the NSA on his assumption of office.

Buhari's refusal to say anything on the appointments has fuelled speculation that he and key stakeholders of APC may not be on the same page with regard to the choice of persons for the positions.

Nonetheless, Buhari and the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, have declared their assets in line with the constitution. This was disclosed in a statement by the head of Buhari's media team, Garba Shehu.

But the non-publication of the details of the assets declaration, in keeping with popular expectation and the president's own past pledge, has rankled with many Nigerians.

The Code of Conduct Bureau on Friday acknowledged the submission of the asset declaration forms of Buhari and Osinbajo, which were submitted separately on May 28, and endorsed by the organisation's chairman, Sam Saba. Buhari's declarant identity was given as "President: 000001/2015."

Nigerians expected the president to make his asset declaration public. But Shehu defended Buhari's decision to limit the declaration to the Code of Conduct Bureau, thus, "President Muhammadu Buhari has declared his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau as required by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If anyone is interested in knowing details of his asset worth, such a person can avail himself or herself of the use of Freedom of Information Act to seek the information from the bureau."

In a related development, the president has denied placing a travel ban on any Nigerian, including officials of the past administration.

A statement on Saturday by Shehu said, "We have not banned anyone from travelling." It stressed that all ex-government officials were entitled to their freedom of movement and other rights and privileges under the constitution and must not be subjected to harassment and intimidation at the airports or other points of entry and exit.

The statement was in reaction to reports about "V.I.P. stoppages" yesterday at the airports.

"Unless otherwise directed by the courts, no law-abiding citizens should be barred from travelling abroad. We must treat fellow citizens with courtesy and respect.

"Officials at the borders and other points of entry and exit should conduct their affairs in strict compliance with due process. No one has my permission to bar anyone from travelling abroad," Shehu quoted Buhari as saying.

Meanwhile, THISDAY learnt that APC leaders insisted they must be carried along by the president in the making of strategic appointments in line with the principle of party supremacy. He had in his inaugural speech on Friday announced the relocation of the Defence Headquarters to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, the hotbed of the nearly six-year-old Boko Haram insurgency. This was in apparent demonstration of his determination to tackle the terrorist threat head-on. Against this backdrop, Buhari is believed to have prioritised the appointment of his security team.

The president was said to have initially decided to make Dambazau the Minister of Defence, but other APC leaders who got wind of it objected to the appointment of northerners into the two strategic positions of NSA and defence minister.

The president of Nigerian Guild of Editors and managing director of Sun Newspapers, Femi Adesina, is said to be pencilled in as Buhari's senior special adviser on media and publicity, and former military administrator of Kaduna State, Col. Abdul Hamid Ali, is being considered for Chief of Staff. Ali had served as Buhari's Chief of Staff before.

Those eyeing the post of SGF include immediate past governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi; former governor of Abia State, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu; and the latest entrant, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe.

Sources in APC said Buhari may have settled for Amaechi with the backing of prominent southerners in the party, who are keen on having someone from the region in the position.

Leaders of the party from the south were said to have confronted Buhari over Kingibe's alleged aspiration, insisting he didn't work for the party. But Buhari was said to have informed them that they might  not have been aware that the former SGF actually  worked for his victory behind the scene.

However, Kingibe has become visible since Buhari's victory, prompting leaders of the party from the south to unite behind Amaechi so that the region does not miss the opportunity of producing the SGF.

THISDAY gathered that the delay in the announcement of key appointments by the new government was caused by the president's decision to refrain from any pronouncement in that regard until major political interests in his party had been catered for.

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